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Defining “Homeless”… Christine McDonald

Posted in #PaulthePoke, Christine "Clarity" McDonald with tags , , , , on March 16, 2023 by paulthepoke

I have some special considerations for faith–based service providers, be it shelters, feeding lines, or residential programs. I want you to consider some of the things that I, as a former homeless individual, want to express, and an example or two of lived experiences that will be helpful for you to consider along with your programs.

The term “homeless” seems to have various meanings depending on whom you ask.

For those of us who have lived without any shelter, without a means to eat, safely sleep, clean up, change clothes, or even go to the bathroom, we mean the term quite literally.

Some people, however, think that sleeping in their car, crashing on a buddy’s couch for any length of time, or living in transitional housing is also being “homeless.”

Even now it baffles me when someone says, “I was homeless, too. I had to live in my car for two weeks.”

Or, “I was homeless once. I had to sleep on the couch in my friend’s basement.”

Or, “I was homeless. I lived in a transitional program.”

Another one I’ve heard is, “I was homeless for six months, and I had to live in a hotel and did not have a car. I had to drive a rental.”

This isn’t the kind of homelessness I endured.

My definition of homeless includes my own experiences of climbing in a dumpster to relieve myself, or sneaking into someone’s yard to use their hose just to get a drink or to wash off. It includes washing off in a public fountain, and stealing half–eaten food off the table at a restaurant because I didn’t feel safe standing in line at the local soup kitchen, especially when the majority of partakers there were male and I was a known prostitute.

I often feel that much of the world, or at least those in our Western culture, don’t understand constantly being on the move because it’s safer. I don’t think general American society understands having to walk all day, stand all night, or sometimes get high just to ward off the hunger or to stay awake a few hours longer because you don’t have a safe place to sleep.

The inherent dangers of this level of homelessness must be truly understood in order to be addressed properly.

Safety and security are often tied with hunger when it comes to a person’s most basic needs. Just because we offer a “shelter” or “temporary housing” doesn’t mean that a person who is truly homeless will take advantage of the opportunity if they feel safer on the streets.

Many shelters offer no protection for those seeking services, and the ones that would be a good place to stay often come with so many strings attached that a person who has been homeless for any length of time may not ever be able to qualify for a bed.

The blocks surrounding shelters are also often “hangout” areas for drug dealers, pimps, and predators watching for their next victim, so individuals frequently steer clear of these places because of the risks they take just walking to them, or in the mornings when exiting them.

Contact Information:
Christine C. McDonald
636-487-8986
https://iwillriseproject.com/

“Love your neighbor, all of ’em.” -Christine Clarity McDonald

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